The $45 billion stimulus question: What now?

With the recent passage of the federal economic recovery bill, now comes the even harder part — turning those dollars into good, lasting jobs for Californians.

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide roughly $45 billion to help heal California’s deep economic wounds. The White House projects the bill will result in nearly 400,000 new California jobs. But what kind of jobs will be created and how will we decide which ones to fund?

This package offers the single greatest opportunity to jumpstart our state’s transition to a 21st century economy by investing in California’s clean energy future and creating good jobs, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We must both revive our ailing economy while confronting the threat of climate change. We can and must do both.

Creating jobs quickly, however, does not mean that California should sacrifice the opportunity to do it right. We deserve a process to allocate the stimulus funds that is clear, transparent and accessible. And we deserve funding priorities that provide the greatest number of good, long term jobs that provide lasting environmental and social benefits.

Countless advocates successfully pushed for the package to support “green-collar jobs”– jobs that pay family-supporting wages, have a career path, and contribute to environmental sustainability. The federal investments in the stimulus package have the potential to achieve these goals by improving energy efficiency, upgrading our transmission grid, and providing much-needed job training to low-income residents to build up the next generation of green-collar workers.

With California mired in an economic crisis, getting funds out the door and into the best job-creating projects must be our top priority. To make that happen, the state must follow these four core principles:

Transparency: In contrast to Sacramento’s backroom budget negotiations, California must have a clear, transparent process for the public to provide input and track where the money is going. With Californians pinching every penny in their own households and lacking confidence in state government, residents must be assured they are receiving the benefits of their hard-earned tax dollars. California must meet or exceed the high level of federal oversight President Obama has set.

Support a triple bottom line: Good green jobs will bring a triple benefit by creating economic sustainability for employees and business owners, improving the environment, and building up communities, especially those most at risk in this economic downturn. California’s policymakers must ensure that newly created jobs provide family-supporting wages and benefits with a career pathway and promote the preservation or restoration of the environment. Doing so will maximize economic growth and ensure the responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

Rebuild Clean and Green: Policymakers should apply forward-thinking energy efficiency standards to all stimulus projects, including transportation and buildings. We must seize the opportunity to put our communities on the path to sustainable economic progress. Reducing our energy use and cutting greenhouse gas emissions is a smart, long-term, economic growth strategy.

Shared prosperity: While hard times have fallen on every corner of the state, some California communities are suffering more than others. As we build a new clean energy economy, we must ensure lower income communities and communities of color across the State receive long overdue investments. State leaders must target job training for people and regions too often left out of economic opportunities, re-employ dislocated workers, and ensure broad sharing of the opportunities created by the stimulus. The state’s community college system and State-approved apprenticeship programs are perfectly suited to help build career ladders for millions of low-income Californians.

We have joined with dozens of the states most influential and respected environmental, social justice, labor, and workforce organizations to form the California Green Stimulus Coalition. As federal stimulus dollars arrive in California, the Coalition will work to ensure that our leaders deploy them in a way that builds a strong and equitable California. Now let’s seize the $45 billion opportunity to take California in a new clean and green direction.

Phil Angelides, Warner Chabot and Angela Glover Blackwell

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